It was on this month in 1934 when the first airmail flight from Australia to New Zealand took place. Command lieutenant, Charles Thomas Phillippe Ulm, made the historic journey in 14 hours. It was an exciting time in aviation history as brave pilots took long routes over vast oceans in questionable aircraft to deliver their nation’s mail. Many perished in their attempts. More than half of the first 40 postal pilots died in air crashes, due to bad weather. Ultimately it would bring about safer flying practices and eventually better aircraft.
Transporting mail via air had been in the works for quite some time. As far back as 1793, letters were delivered via hot air balloons. The United States Postal Service (USPS) would establish domestic airmail (transcontinental) routes within our country in 1918.
The first international airmail flight from the United States occurred on March 3, 1919, when William Boeing and Eddie Hubbard flew 60 letters from Vancouver, Canada to Seattle, Wash.
Over the next decade, international routes were established to Cuba, Mexico, Panama, and the Bahamas.
During the late 1920s, attempts were made to deliver mail to and from passenger ships. They were a stunt in and of itself and soon abandoned.
The first transpacific airmail service debuted in 1935. The route would go to Hawaii, Midway, Wake, and Guam before arriving in Manila. Soon after, other Pacific routes would be open to Hong Kong, Australia, and China.
Transatlantic airmail service began in 1939 when Pan American Airlines flew the Boeing 314 from New York to Europe.
Today, international mail travels with passengers aboard commercial airliners, delivering to an estimated 180 countries. USPS says in recent years they have returned to using ships due to COVID-19 as airlines adjust to the pandemic.